Riding a motorcycle through the Hai Van Pass is hands down one of my favorite things I did while in Vietnam. The route takes you from Hue to Hoi An, with several diffrent sights to see along the way including temples, lagoons, hot springs, and moutain tops. I booked my ride through Style Motorbikes, where you can choose to rent a motorcycle or go with a rider. Since I had never driven one before and had only two weeks to see as much of Vietnam as possible, I decided to go with a rider.
The rider picked me up from my Hostel in Hue around 9am. I almost got scammed out of my reserved ride, so be very cautious if you are waiting for any tours out front of your hostel, especially if you have any backpacks or luggage in view of the street. Keep an eye out for those who may be listening to your conversations or are lurking because many people want to get you to go with them to make money. This is what happened to me.
My hostel’s dining/bar area was open-air, and I was there waiting for a ride making conversation with people I had met the day before.
Some guy approached me and said, “You are riding the Hai Van Pass to Hoi An today?”.
I replied, “Yes, I have a ride already.”
He said, ” Yes, I know he sent me to pick you up. They are too busy today. I’m your new rider..”
In retrospect, this doesn’t sound legit, but I get easily confused when I’m tired, which I was. Also, traveling in Vietnam is extra confusing, in my opinion. After showing him my e-mail between me and my reservation, he said yes, that’s me. Feeling like I properly vetted the driver, I got on his bike, and he took me to a cafe down the street. When he pulled out the map and told me to contact the place to say to them I had changed plans, that’s when I got super suspicious. I asked him to take me back, and he did. Yes, this could have been a terrifying moment, and I was very unsettled. Still, most people scamming’ in Vietnam are looking for money, not jail time.
With a possibly unfavorable and bad situation averted, my ride showed up. We then traveled to the local Style Motorbikes garage, where I filled out paperwork and dropped off my luggage which was going to be dropped off in Hoi An for me. I thought my rider and I would go over the route so I could choose the stops I wanted, but he seemed to have a route in mind that included the stop I wanted to see the most. So with lots of nerves, I got on the back of a motorcycle and rode off into the Vietnamese countryside.
My rider took me on back roads along the perfume river out of Hue. We went in and out of villages and rice fields with water buffalo grazing. We stopped by his home, where I learned he and another sibling lived with their families and his parents. He works in rice fields and does bike tours during the growing season for extra money. It was charming inside daily life in Vietnam.
We stopped for a quick coffee roadside between his house and our next stop. I learned about people’s shrines outside their homes and businesses near the doors. These shrines are ancestral shrines hoping to bring luck, health, and property to the families.
The next stop on our tour was the massive Tam Giang Lagoon, home to fishing villages and oyster farms. We stopped several times along the lagoon to see the beautiful views from every angle. We paused at one of the places to view the lagoon we were by a mooring of boats. My rider told me that each boat housed a family, and up to 10 people would live in one of these small boats simultaneously. He said nowadays, not as many families live on boats in these moorings because the government has developed projects helping people save money to buy property nearby. Having a home on land also gives families a chance to send their children to school. It’s challenging to comprehend living in such a small place with 10 other of your family members and the poverty many people experience across the world. I think that’s what makes traveling so important. Seeing firsthand poverty across the globe while trying to break down your personal biases of the people who live in these conditions is something that opens your mind up to different ways of life.
From the lagoon, we made our way to a beach between the lagoon and the pass. It was on the beach we took a lunch break. Already sweating, I took the stop as a chance to dry off instead of taking a swim. Lunch was absolutely delicious and worth the price. I had fresh oysters with peanuts and soy, then a mouth-watering spicy barbequed seafood noodle dish.
After our bellies were full, we made our way up the curves of Hai Van Pass, stopping near the top for a spectacular ocean view. Thanks to my rider, I got some fantastic pictures of me and the bike! The ride down the pass into Da Nang was no less spectacular, seeing the city meet the ocean slowly growing larger the further down you went.
The drive-through of Da Nang was probably my least favorite part. There are lots of abandoned half-finished luxury resorts, which I would later find out was due to foreign investors being scammed by builders who have little consequences for not completing their work. Although Da Nang has the potential to be a cheaper luxury beach getaway for Southern Asia, the abandoned resorts make the beaches more of an eyesore than a paradise. Past the high rises and beaches, we went over the famous Dragon Bridge to our next stop in the Marble Mountains on the other side of the city.
The Marble Mountains have been mined for generations, and you can see the marble statues carved from the mountains all along the roads in the area. The mountains are now home to a giant sprawling Buddhist temple complex. I only had an hour and a half to explore the most extensive complex, which was not enough. Other Temples are spread around the pockets of mountainous jutting out from the landscape in the area. I did pay for the ride up and down (two different charges) on the elevator to save time, but the steps are free. There are so many shrines and caves in and around the winding pathway here it is easy to get lost, so make sure you grab a map at the bottom. You don’t want to miss one of the most beautiful Buddhist statues hidden in a cave on the far side of the complex.
Drenched in sweat and a little sun burnt on this hot and humid day, I made my way down the mountain back to my rider, where we took off again towards Hoi An through rice fields.
The Hai Van Pass left me exhausted but filled with serotonin excited to add getting my motorcycle license to my bucket list! You can not miss a ride on the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam, with breathtaking views and stops that allow you to learn more about Vietnamese culture; it is a trip of a lifetime.
All The Places
Style Motorbike – about $50 USD for the tour when I went – various locations through out Vietnam
Dragon Bridge – Free – 366G+FGG, Phước Ninh, Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng 550000
Tam Giang Lagoon – Free – Too big to put one adddress of a best location so youll have to take a tour, ret a bike, or relax on a beach between it and the ocean to see what life is like there.
Marbel Mountians – free, 20,000 elevator – 81 Huyền Trân Công Chúa, Hoà Hải, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng
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